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$15.5M to push Pebble over EIS finish line


Last updated 12/20/2019 at 1:21pm

Pebble Limited Partnership

Workers returning to camp trek across the world-class Pebble copper-gold-molybdenum deposit in Southwest Alaska. Despite the unassuming topography, this project has received strong opposition from conservationists worried that a mine could affect salmon habitat in the Bristol Bay region.

Northern Dynasty Minerals Ltd. Dec. 18 announced that it has raised US$15.5 million, which it will use to continue to advance permitting and outreach at its Pebble copper-gold-molybdenum mine project in Southwest Alaska.

The Pebble project is nearing a final decision on an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed mine. The EIS is a lengthy process under the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), that ensures that large projects such as Pebble meet federal environmental laws and are developed in the most sustainable way possible. This process involves both professional scrutiny and public input.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency charged with leading the EIS process for Pebble, published a draft EIS for a proposed 20-year mine at the large copper-gold-molybdenum deposit in February and collected comments from the public over a four-month span that ran through the end of June.

The Corps is now addressing any issues brought up during the public comment period and using the input toward drafting a final EIS and making a permit decision for establishing a mine at Pebble.

"We are hearing a lot of substantive comments that will help ensure the analysis we are doing leads to a very informed decision, which is what the NEPA process is designed to do," Sheila Newman, deputy chief of the regulatory division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Alaska District, said in May.

In order to allow the NEPA process to work as it was designed, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decided in July to roll back its 2014 proposed determination that, if finalized, would have placed debilitating restrictions on developing the world-class Pebble Mine.

While this decision had more to do with the legality and precedence of the attempted Obama-era determination than an endorsement of Pebble, it lifted a shadow lingering over the project.

EPA, however, still has some concerns about the Pebble EIS but is working with the Corps to address them. This cooperation is being carried out under a mechanism outlined under Section 404(q) of the Clean Water Act that encourages "communication and full consideration of each agencies' views concerning proposed projects" such as Pebble.

To accommodate this cooperation, Corps extended EPA's deadline for submitting input on the Pebble EIS, which was originally set to expire on Oct. 24.

Corps has previously stated that it expects a final EIS for Pebble to be completed early in 2020 and the record of decision (RoD) for development on a mine at the large copper-gold-molybdenum project by mid-year. There have been indications, however, that this schedule could be adjusted, and it is expected that the Corps could announce the new schedule in the near term.

In the meantime, the Pebble Partnership, which is currently solely owned by Northern Dynasty, continues to invest in supporting the EIS process and stakeholder outreach.

To fund these endeavors, Northern Dynasty raised US$15.5 million through an underwritten public offering that involved the issuance of 41.98 million Northern Dynasty shares at US$37 each.

This offering was completed pursuant to a Dec. 13 underwriting agreement with Cantor Fitzgerald Canada Corp., BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc., H.C. Wainwright & Co., LLC. and TD Securities Inc.

Northern Dynasty said the money raised will be used for:

• operational expenditures, including engineering, environmental, permitting and evaluation expenses associated with Pebble Project and advancement of the EIS;

• engagement with political and regulatory offices in Alaska state and Washington D.C;

• ongoing outreach to Alaska Native partners and broader regional and statewide stakeholder groups; and

• general corporate purposes.

Tom Collier

Considering the progress made in 2019, this should get Pebble through the EIS process, which would be a major milestone for this world-class mine project.

"With the publication of an overwhelmingly positive Draft EIS in February, the formal withdrawal of the Obama Administration's unprecedented 404(c) proposed determination in July, and our inexorable progress toward a Final EIS and RoD in the first half of 2020, people are starting to understand that Pebble is a project of merit," Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier said in October.


CORRECTION: For clarity, North of 60 Mining News added the word project to the first sentence of this article. A mine has not been developed at this advanced exploration project.


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